Lincoln women's basketball coach Nicole Collier wished the Blue Tigers started the game the way they finished it.
Unfortunately for Collier, that's not how it played out.
Northwest Missouri jumped out to a commanding lead and held off a late Lincoln comeback to claim a 65-53 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association win Saturday afternoon at Jason Gym.
"What I saw in the last five to eight minutes is what I wish I had seen in the first half," Collier said. "We seemed like all of a sudden we were focused, we were determined. I don't feel like we played that way for the first 25 minutes, 30 minutes of the game."
Coming off its first MIAA win of the season Thursday, Lincoln (4-7, 1-13) trailed by 19 points at halftime and Northwest Missouri (9-12, 6-8) led by as many as 29 with 11:14 to play in the second half.
"We don't have the depth to dig that big of a hole and try to get back out of it," Collier said. "We don't have the numbers to press for 20 minutes and be effective at it."
The Blue Tigers gave it their best shot, but they needed more time.
Lincoln went on a 14-1 run to come within 16 with 5:12 left to play and ended the game on a 9-0 surge to cut its final deficit to 12.
"It was that last 10 minutes where we were like, "You know what, we're getting embarrassed - it's time for us to fight back,'" Collier said. "Instead of preventing it, we let it happen and then we tried to dig ourselves out."
Angela Randall scored 15 points to go along with three assists and three steals to lead Lincoln, which shot 17-of-59 (28.8 percent) from the field and 2-of-20 (13.3 percent) from 3-point range.
Randall, who didn't come off the floor the entire game, also played a big part in the Blue Tigers' comeback on the defensive end.
"Playing 40 minutes is tough on anybody - especially when you're asking her to trap and pressure," Collier said. "I don't know if there's anybody else that could have stepped in and did what she did. For as much as I was asking her to do, she kept doing it."
Hunter Yoakum finished with 13 points - nine in the second half - while Jennifer Rosado added 11 for the Blue Tigers, who knocked down 17-of-19 free-throw attempts.
Despite placing three players in double figures, Lincoln was limited to five assists, compared to Northwest Missouri, which finished with 16.
"We're capable of breaking down defenses; we're not always capable of finding the open person," Collier said. "They were capable of seeing where the rotation came from and finding the wide-open person."
Asleigh Nelson finished with a game-high 20 points after going 6-of-11 from behind the arc. Ariel Easton added 15 points, while Annie Mathews chipped in with 10 to help lead the Bearcats, who were 24-of-56 (42.9 percent) from the field and 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) from the 3-point line.
"I didn't think we dictated anything defensively tonight," Collier said. "They controlled the game all night. They made the extra pass, they made us rotate, and work.
"They just kept us rotating and had us flying all around. We had people matched on people that aren't capable of guarding shooters."
Northwest Missouri jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first four minutes of the game, but Randall hit back-to-back jumpers to cut Lincoln's deficit to four with 12:46 left in the first half.
The momentum didn't last long.
Nelson knocked down a pair of 3s midway through the first half to spark a run that never subsided as the Bearcats took a 41-22 advantage into the second half.
Northwest Missouri was 15-of-32 from the field in the first half and 6-of-11 from behind the arc, while limiting Lincoln to 25 percent shooting (9-of-36) and forcing nine-first half turnovers.
Both teams struggled early in the second half, but Northwest Missouri went on a 14-4 surge to take a 59-30 lead - its biggest of the night - with 11:14 to play.
"We have kids that are offensively minded," Collier said. "When their offense isn't there, their defense is nowhere to be found. "
A layup by Yoakum capped off a 14-1 run to cut the Blue Tigers' deficit to 16 with 5:12 remaining, but the Bearcats responded with another rally to extend its lead to 21 with 2:52 remaining.
Lincoln never threw in the towel as the Blue Tigers closed the game out on a 9-0 run.
"We gave it our best for 10 (minutes), but we're tired," Collier said. "For us to get ourselves in that big of a hole - it's nearly impossible for us to come out of."
Lincoln will travel Wednesday to Central Missouri before hosting Southwest Baptist on Feb. 15.